A prodigious essayist, it is this area of C.S. Lewis’ work that I find the most provocative—even more so than the fiction and apologetics books (though there is overlap in the latter category). Whether inspirational or controversial, his brevity, clarity and wit strike through his reviews, lectures, published letters, editorials, sermons, public controversies, paper, and critical essays.
Essay writing was an area that Lewis excelled in. After the onset of WWII, and not including book reviews, Lewis published essays, sermons, lectures or editorials at a rate of about one every 8 weeks. Beyond these pieces that appeared in local and international journals and collection, much of his popular nonfiction began as essays, lectures, or addresses. Mere Christianity (1952) is a collection of 33 WWII-era BBC talks, and much of the material of Miracles (1947) was tested out on the public during WWII as individual articles, Socratic Club papers, and sermons. Beyond his essay collections proper, the centre of many of his books began as lectures, including A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942), Abolition of Man (1943), The Four Loves (1960), Studies in Words (1960), The Discarded Image (1964), the commentary of Arthurian Torso (1948), and some part of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954). Lewis used short pieces and talks to form the base of much of the nonfiction we enjoy the most–and as the foundation of some of the fiction.
One of the struggles as a C.S. Lewis reader is trying to navigate the essay collections. I have 19 anthologies and collections on my shelf, and a quick internet search is going to send you scurrying to about 25 different sources all told. Those sources come from separate UK & US publication streams, as well as a series of revised editions, abridgements, gift editions, selections, and reprints under different names.
Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess.
Fortunately, though, C.S. Lewis sleuth Arend Smilde has worked it all out. Arend wrote “A History of C. S. Lewis’s Collected Shorter Writings, 1939-2000” for the Journal of Inklings Studies (JINKS), and then expanded the essay for web publication after a new volume of essays and book reviews came out in 2013 (called Image and Imagination). In the essay, Arend walks you through the pretty peculiar publication history of Lewis’ shorter pieces. Perhaps even more valuable for the C.S. Lewis reader, Arend has taken the time to list the table of contents of each of the 23 major essay collections, and has reordered the shorter pieces in both alphabetical and chronological order (see this impressive work here).
Arend’s lists were important as I set up my schedule to read Lewis chronologically (though I had to redate things by time of writing, rather than publication), and I find myself frequenting his webpage whenever I need to look something up.
As I have been rereading Lewis this year according to topic instead of chronology, I started to think differently about the shorter pieces. The question finally came to me: How could I read almost every Lewis piece while buying as few volumes as possible? It isn’t just about being cheap! It is tough when someone asks what to read next and there is this whole mess of collections floating around. So what is the simplest way to get the vast majority of Lewis’ shorter pieces in book form?
Using a sohpisticated analytical tool (basically the MS Excel version of pencil crayons), I have determined that you can read every single published Lewis short pieces except one if you have 9 books. My fancy chart at the bottom of the page pretty much maps it out for you. To make the list short enough for the screen I’ve left out most of the short book reviews in Image and Imagination (#9). Except for the four-page essay “Christian Reunion” published in 1990–which you can read here–you can read all of Lewis’ published literary critical pieces, editorials, sermons, addresses, lectures, and essays in these nine books:
- The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses(revised and expanded edition, US, 1980): This is a beautiful collection that shouldn’t be confused with the 1949 collection of the same name (or Transpositions and Other Essays in the UK).
- God in the Dock (US, 1970); Undeceptions(UK, 1971): This is the classic collection of essays on theology and ethics. Beware of the tiny abridged God in the Dock (1979). Other abridgements include The Grand Miracle (1982), First and Second Things (1985), and Christian Reunion (1990) with that essay that’s missing from my list below.
- Christian Reflections (UK/US, 1967): These are Christian pieces that are a little lighter in tone, and offer cultural criticism and encouragement to Christian growth. The Seeing Eye (1986) has most, but not all, of these pieces.
- Present Concerns (UK, 1986): While the introduction suggests these are “journalistic,” it is best to think of them as cultural critical and editorial pieces. They are more timely than other things Lewis has written, which also makes some of them dated. Still, fascinating to read.
- Of This and Other Worlds (UK, 1982); On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (US, 1982): This is the most full collection of Lewis’ popular-level pieces on writing, literature, and science fiction. Don’t confuse it with the excellent collection Of Other Worlds (1966), which has about half the essays plus four of the stories that are in The Dark Tower and Other Stories (1977).
- The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (US, 1960): This is a volume that Lewis himself put together with his publisher but has been reprinted in a couple of series. These essays are within the apologetics and popular philosophy category (like God in the Dock part 1).
- Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (UK/US, 1966): This volume contains some essays that introduce the reader to literature from the late middle ages through the time of Milton (roughly 11th-17th centuries), as well as some studies of individual books in that period.
- Selected Literary Essays(UK/US, 1969): A diverse collection that runs from Jane Austen to the King James Bible and all the way back through Tasso to the medieval storytellers.
- Image and Imagination: Essays and Reviews (UK/US, 2013): Although published last, this might be the best place for the reader new to Lewis’ academic literature essays. A lot of the books he reviews are great reads, and even the more obscure reviews contain Lewisian wit and knowledge. It also includes some essays that have been out of print for decades.
Some notes: The version I put first in the list is the one I have on my shelf (and typically the most accessible to others); the 3 literary collections (#s6-9) are the same on either continent. You’ll notice there is almost no overlap, so what looked like a complete mess falls into place in 2013 with the release of Image and Imagination. Arend divides the essays between academic (#s7-9) and popular (#s1-6), but the 1st section of God in the Dock (#2) is a bit of a challenge, and much of Image and Imagination (#9) is fairly accessible. We could also divide the books between “Christian” (#s 1, 2, 3, 4, 6) and “literary” (#s 5, 7, 8, 9). There are likely some errors here (a lot of the essays are named various things and I might have messed it up); let me know if you see something.
Wherever your interests lie, I hope this list supplements Arend Smilde’s excellent work to give you the resources you need to track down Lewis’ shorter work. For the burgeoning C.S. Lewis scholar, these are the nine core books that cover the majority of the short pieces you’ll need for your bibliography.
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About Brenton Dickieson“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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This entry was posted in Lewis Biography, Lewis' Essays and tagged books, C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, Christian Reunion, essay writing, God in the Dock, Image and Imagination, Of Other Worlds, Of This and Other Worlds, Present Concerns, Selected Literary Essays, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, The Weight of Glory, The World's Last Night, writing. Bookmark the permalink.
Have Someone Read You Every C.S. Lewis Essay for Less Than $20
January 24, 2017 · C.S. Lewis · 3 Comments
If you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, here’s some great news, which I just learned about via Tony Reinke’s blog.
Most people know C.S. Lewis through his Narnian chronicles or his theology books, such as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, or The Great Divorce. But beyond his stories and books, we shouldn’t forget his essays.
Lewis was one of the most clear and insightful essayists of the twentieth century. You can find his essays scattered within several collections, but until recently there wasn’t a single, comprehensive volume which pulled them together.
That changed in the year 2000, when Lesley Walmsley published C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces. The book spans over 1,000 pages and features 137 essays, letters, and short stories.
It’s a goldmine for C.S. Lewis fans, however it’s a tough one to acquire. The collection was published in London and few copies were printed, so copies are scarce in the United States. Most used copies are at least $150 on Amazon.
But here’s the great news!
You can now get the entire collection in a . . . $19.95 audiobook through Audible. The 39 hours of audio is performed by the late British actor, Ralph Cosham (1936–2014).
C.S. Lewis Essay Collection Audiobook (Amazon)
Here’s the full track list:
1) The Grand Miracle
2) Is Theology Poetry?
3) The Funeral of a Great Myth
4) God In the Dark
5) What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?
6) The World’s Last Night
7) Is Theism Important?
8) The Seeing Eye
9) Must Our Image of God Go?
10) Christianity and Culture
11) Evil and God
12) The Weight of Glory
14) Dogma and the Universe
15) The Horrid Red Things
16) Religion: Reality or Substitute?
17) Myth Became Fact
18) Religion and Science
19) Christian Apologetics
20) Work and Prayer
21) Religion Without Dogma?
22) The Decline of Religion
24) The Pains of Animals
25) Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer
26) On Obstinacy in Belief
27) What Christmas Means to Me
28) The Psalms
29) Religion and Rocketry
30) The Efficacy of Prayer
31) Fern Seed and Elephants
32) The Language of Religion
34) Why I am Not a Pacifist
35) Dangers of National Repentance
36) Two Ways With the Self
37) Meditation on the Third Commandment
38) On Ethics
39) Three Kinds of Men
40) Answers to Questions on Christianity
41) The Laws of Nature
43) The Sermon and the Lunch
45) After Priggery – What?
46) Man or Rabbit?
47) The Trouble With X
48) On Living in an Atomic Age
49) Lillies that Fester
50) Good Work and Good Works
51) A Slip of the Tongue
52) We Have No Right to Happiness
53) Christian Reunion: An Anglican Speaks to Roman Catholics
54) Priestesses in the Church?
55) On Church Music
56) Christianity and Literature
57) High and Low Brows
58) Is English Doomed?
59) On the Reading of Old Books
60) The Parthenon and the Optative
61) The Death of Words
62) On Science Fiction
63) Miserable Offenders
64) Different Tastes in Literature
65) Modern Translations of the Bible
66) On Juvenile Tastes
67) Sex in Literature
68) The Hobbit
69) Period Criticism
70) On Stories
71) On Three Ways of Writing for Children
72) Prudery and Philology
73) Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings”
74) Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said
75) It All Began With a Picture
76) Unreal Estates
77) On Criticism
78) Cross Examination
79) A Tribute to E.R. Eddison
80) The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard
81) George Orwell
82) A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers
83) The Novels of Charles Williams
84) Learning in War-Time
85) Bulverism (or, The Foundation of 20th Century Thought)
86) The Founding of the Oxford Socratic Club
87) My First School
88) Democratic Education
90) Private Bates
91) Meditation in a Tool Shed
92) On the Transmission of Christianity
93) Modern Man and His Categories of Thought
95) The Empty Universe
96) Interim Report
97) Is History Bunk?
98) Before We Can Communicate
99) First and Second Things
100) The Poison of Subjectivism
102) De Futilitate
103) A Dream
105) Talking About Bicycles
107) The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment
108) Behind the Scenes
109) The Necessity of Chivalry
110) The Inner Ring
111) Two Lectures
112) Some Thoughts
113) X-mas and Christmas
114) Revival or Decay
115) Delinquents in the Snow
116) Willing Slaves of the Welfare State
117) Screwtape Proposes a Toast
118) The Conditions for a Just War
119) The Conflict in Anglican Theology
121) Mr. C.S. Lewis on Christianity
122) A Village Experience
123) Correspondence With an Anglican Who Dislikes Hymns
124) The Church’s Liturgy, Invocation, and Invocation of Saints
125) The Holy Name
126) Mere Christians
128) Pittenger-Lewis and Version Vernacular
129) Capital Punishment and Death Penalty
130) The Man Born Blind
131) The Dark Tower
132) The Dark Tower (continued)
133) The Dark Tower (continued)
134) Ministering Angels
135) The Shoddy Lands
136) After Ten Years
137) Forms of Things Unknown
C.S. Lewis Essay Collection Audiobook (Amazon)